Too many times our senior parents, who have been successful and productive individuals, are trivialized in their everyday interactions. Most often this occurs unintentionally because of unconscious assumptions about people who are growing old. Each time I observe what I believe to be disrespectful behavior — even when it is unconscious on the part of an individual — I plan to note it as a comment on this page.
This article, Don’t Call Them Sweetie, from the June 5, 2010 Denver Post.com, illustrates the lack of respect toward the elderly. Thanks to the Inside Aging Parent Care blog for discovering this article.
In July 2010 I posted thoughts expressing my frustration with disrespectful words used to address seniors and describing a unique program at the Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community that encourages staff members to think about respectful words.
You can also check out ElderSpeak: Baby Comments Directed at Older Adults over at the Changing Aging blog.
What are your experiences with this topic. Please consider leaving a comment!
The Sing-Song, High Pitched Voice
It happens everywhere, at the grocery store, the doctor’s office, in senior classes and courses, even in retirement communities where staff should be trained to know better. In general the senior citizen is spoken to in a high-pitched voice, the kind that is usually reserved for babies. When this happens to someone I know, I can see them literally tighten up. Very hurtful.
Using the Computer
In a computer class for older adults, a participant was having trouble getting the mouse to the place to click. The instructor grabbed the mouse and did it for the senior learner.
Sometimes when a person gets too involved in a story or repeats himself or herself when telling stories, people who are listening look around the room and roll their eyes or comment rudely, “You’ve already told me that!”. Very degrading. A better solution is to maintain eye contact, wait until the person comes to a pause, and to gently say something like, “I remember you telling me about that…” and ask a question seeking more information or encouraging a different topic.
Call Them Around the Time You Say You Will Call!
When you tell aging parents that you will call them around a certain time or on a certain day, they expect a phone call, and many of them wait around for the phone to ring.When the call does not come, they are disoriented.Offices of all kinds need to be better and more respectful about returning phone calls.
Thank you — absolutely right.
I am 61 years old..still employed (business owner). I have gradually seen a change in the way children of baby boomers are talking to their parents. I truly believe that the level of respect for parents has changed since we were younger. Further, I would never talk to my mother (still living) in the same tone of voice that I hear, at times, from my children… or hear other children of seniors talk to their parents. When I reached adulthood, I reached out to my parents and tried to help them in any way possible. I still do this for my mother. Now it seems that children of boomers expect help from the parents but never offer the same in return. And, we wonder what is happening to our country!!! PS Recently my 82 yr. old mother took a trip with my sister via air. The flight attendant wanted info regarding my mothers portable oxygen and would not ask my mother. There is nothing wrong with my mother other than COPD…but she was treated as if she had a hearing problem or worse….as if she wasn’t even there. Sadly enough…my sister answered each and every question with no regard for how my mother was feeling. Is this what my husband and I have to look forward to???
Thank you for your comment. Yes, I’ve found the same thing — people tending to ignore a elderly senior. I guess the only thing that we can do is turn to the person who is being left out and ask them for their opinion. I have a strategy in the hospital when people come in and begin talking to me instead of a parent. I turn to my parent and ask, “What do you think about this?” It makes the point.
My mother’s doctor…(a gerontologist!) always looked at me (I am an adult daughter) when talking and addressed all questions to me.
He continued to do that even after I pointed to my mother, or simply turned to my mother and repeated his question for her to answer.
Thank you for your insights. I am a psychotherapist with 40 years of experience, yet I’m treated with such patronizing responses. I knew that the transition into assisted care would be difficult but I’m chaffing at the burden of the disrespect.
Thanx for hearing me out.
I’ve started to write about my experiences in a blog. Hope the writing helps. I blog at http://www.greyingpanther.wordpress.com